Luis Diaz’s family demand PROOF that the Liverpool star’s father is still alive – nearly 48 hours after guerilla terrorist group agreed to release their hostage following the withdrawal of Colombian troops
- The Marxist-Leninist ELN are yet to make good on their promise to release him
- Colombian government has agreed to the group’s demands for troop withdrawal
- Liverpool’s Luis Diaz is extraordinary – Listen here to It’s All Kicking Off
Liverpool star Luis Diaz’s family have demanded the kidnappers holding his father hostage offer proof he is alive as concern about their failure to release him grows.
The left-wing ELN insurgent group so far failed to make good on its promise to free Luis Manuel Diaz despite saying at the end of last week it was working on liberating him as soon as possible.
It went on to accuse the Colombian government of hindering its efforts by maintaining a high military and police presence in the Perija Mountains on Colombia’s border with Venezuela where father-of-four Luis Manuel is thought to be held.
But despite the government responding by ordering the withdrawal of troops and elite cops to Barrancas where the father-of-four was kidnapped on October 28, the 11-day ordeal is ongoing for footballer trainer Luis Manuel’s family. The missing man’s brother Gabi admitted they are worried and has begged the ELN, branded a terrorist organisation by the US government and EU, to offer proof the 58-year-old is still alive.
He said: ‘What we would most like is to have that proof by seeing him and knowing what situation our brother, our relative, our papa, our son is in, because my father is here and wants to see his son.’
Luis Manuel Diaz, the father of Liverpool forward Luis Diaz, is still missing after 11 days as a hostage of the ELN
Diaz Snr’s brother Gabi has called for the guerilla organisation to offer the family proof of life
The group – which has been branded a terrorist organisation by the US government and the EU – has yet to make a move after troops were withdrawn from the Venezuelan border
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Luis Alfonso Diaz, the footballer’s cousin, told Colombian state broadcaster RNC: ‘We are asking the ELN to send us proof of how Luis Manuel is now so we can have some peace of mind.’
The demands are being echoed by government officials and Colombian media which has accused the captors of playing games and speculated it claims army and police activity was complicating the freedom process was an attempt to buy time while it negotiates a ransom demand.
No information has been made public about the possibility of a cash payment for Luis Manuel’s release.
Last Thursday Colombian journalist Salud Hernandez-Mora, referring to Luis Diaz by his nickname of Lucho as he is better known in his homeland, warned after the government identified the ELN as the kidnappers around the time it emerged one of its regional units called the Northern War Front carried out the crime: ‘The modus operandi of the kidnap of the parents of Lucho Diaz is identical to other kidnaps this criminal gang has carried out. And they only free people in exchange for millions.’
Respected Colombian media outlet Semana raged on Tuesday, in a hard-hitting article taking aim at the insurgent group and accusing it of lying: ‘It’s vital the ELN hands over proof Luis Manuel Diaz is alive, so his family and the country can see he is good conditions and is indeed in the hands of the Northern War Front.’
Otty Patino, the Colombian government’s chief negotiator in ongoing peace talks with the ELN which started before the October 28 kidnap, said on Monday after soldiers and police were ordered back from the main search area: ‘The ELN are taking too long to hand their hostage over.’
He added, speaking of a deadline that has now passed: ‘They should free Mr Diaz today, there’s no reason for them not to do it.’
Colombian military chiefs insisted on Monday they had laid the ground for the release ‘in the next few hours’ after confirming the withdrawal of troops and police.
On Sunday, Diaz payed emotional tribute to his family’s ordeal with a t-shirt under his jersey
The community in Diaz’s hometown of Barrancas has rallied around the family and held a number of marches demanding Diaz Snr’s release
Around 200 men were told to return to the town of Barrancas to facilitate Operation Freedom after the ELN expressed its concerns.
The insurgent group simultaneously made a new pledge to release his dad. It followed Luis Diaz’s emotional social media message late on Sunday, after he came off the bench to score a last-gasp equaliser for his team against Luton and lifted up his shirt to reveal the message: ‘Freedom for Papa’ on the T-shirt underneath.
The 26-year-old said, referring to his father by his nickname of Mane as he is better known: ‘This is not Luis Diaz the player speaking. Today it is the son of Luis Manuel Diaz speaking.
‘Mane, my dad, is a hard-working family man, the pillar of our family and he’s been kidnapped.
‘I ask the ELN for the prompt release of my father, and I ask international organisations to work together for his freedom
‘Every second, every minute, our anguish grows. My mother, my brothers and I are desperate, distressed and without words to describe what we are feeling. This suffering will only end when we have him back home.
‘I beg you to release him immediately, respecting his integrity and ending this painful wait as soon as possible.
‘In the name of love and compassion, we ask you to reconsider your actions and allow us to have him back.
‘I thank Colombians and the international community for the support received, thank you for so many demonstrations of affection and solidarity in this difficult time that many families in my country find themselves experiencing.’
The ELN responded on Monday with a statement signed by the unit’s leader Commander Jose Manuel Martinez Quiroz. It said: ‘On November 2, we informed the country of the decision to release Mr. Luis Manuel Díaz, father of the player Luis Díaz. From that date, we began the process to accomplish this as soon as possible. We are making efforts to avoid incidents with government forces. ‘
The area is still militarised, they are carrying out flyovers, disembarking troops, broadcasting and offering rewards as part of an intense search operation.
‘This situation is not allowing for the execution of the release plan quickly and safely, where Mr. Luis Manuel Díaz is not at risk. If operations continue in the area, they will delay the release and increase the risks.
Diaz’s mother Cilenis Marulanda (centre) hosted another demonstration on Sunday in a bid to secure her husband’s release
Marulanda (centre) was also kidnapped by armed men but released just hours into the ordeal
Colombia’s armed services including police and military personnel have teamed up in the hunt
Forces are now based in Barrancas after withdrawing in a bid to facilitate Diaz Snr’s release
‘We understand the anguish of the Díaz Marulanda family, to whom we say that we will keep our word to release him unilaterally, as soon as we have security guarantees for the development of the liberation operation.’
Luis Diaz’s mum Cilenis Marulanda was also abducted near the couple’s home alongside her husband but freed as the police and army hunt for their captors kicked in.
On Sunday she fought back tears as she urged the kidnappers to release her partner.
Cilenis made her impassioned plea as she took part in a second march to demand Luis Manuel Diaz’s freedom.
She said, with her eyes closed before breaking down and being hugged by a relative beside her: ‘I want them to release him now, that the people who are keeping him free him now back to me, because we want to have him back home.’
Cilenis wore a T-shirt with her husband’s face printed on it under the message: ‘Your family is waiting for you.’
The abduction of civilians has been a traditional practice of the ELN. In January 2018 the rebel group kidnapped an oil engineer in the north of Colombian. He was named at the time as 41-year-old Andres Riano Ravelo.
Two Dutch journalists were kidnapped by the group in June 2017, the Colombian military said.
The ELN said in June when it agreed a ceasefire with the government that it would continue with the twin crimes of kidnapping and extortion ‘where necessary,’ describing them as being essential to the group’s ‘finances.’
A negotiator for the group said at the time: ‘We don’t talk about kidnap, we talk about retentions. If they are not necessary they won’t happen.’
The Marxist-Leninist ELN, or National Liberation Army in English, was founded in 1964 by radical Catholics inspired by Cuba’s communist revolution.
It was behind a car bombing in January 2019 at a police academy in Bogota which killed 21 people and injured 68 others, making it one of the deadliest attacks ever in the Colombian capital.
Peace talks have been going on between the ELN and the Colombian government since March 2020 when the guerrilla group declared its unilateral ceasefire.
The ELN has a history of taking civilians hostage over the nearly sixty years since its founding
Diaz is a national hero in his home country – and even the kidnappers have referred to him by his affectionate nickname ‘Lucho’
Last week, Barrancas played host to a candlelit vigil calling for Diaz Snr’s release – but over a week later, the town are no closer to welcoming him home
Last Tuesday afternoon relatives, friends and well-wishers took to the streets of Barrancas, in the border region of La Guajira, for the first march to demand the liberation of Luis Manuel or Mane as he is better known in his home town.
The march began at 5pm local time and finished at the home of Luis Diaz’s parents. Many children took part in the march holding up white balloons and wearing Colombian tops with Luis Diaz’s name and shirt number on it.
A local armed with a loudspeaker asked the crowd of protestors: ‘What does Barrancas demand for Mane Diaz?’ and received the rapturous reply: ‘Libertad, Libertad, Libertad’ – ‘Freedom, Freedom, Freedom’ in English.
The Liverpool striker urged people to join the march shortly before it started. His message, featuring a promotional poster, said: ‘Take your candle to ignite the light of hope.’
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